There was a 30 per cent increase in road fatalities recorded as at the end of last year. This translated to 146 fatalities from 135 accidents compared to 112 fatalities from 103 accidents for the same period in 2013.
The statistics paint a daunting picture and it is the conviction of Minister of Public Health, Dr. George Norton, that road traffic accidents have silently become an epidemic that is snuffing out far too many lives. He observed that a significant number of the working age population are disrupted, on a daily basis, by road traffic accidents.
He qualified his observation with the fact that traffic accidents have emerged as the leading cause of death in the 21-40 years age group. Because persons within this age range are the primary victims of road accidents, a situation that is adversely affecting socio-economic health has developed.
The Minister, in a message to mark the commencement of Road Safety Month 2015, said that while motorisation has served to enhance the lives of many individuals and societies. The benefits have however come with a price.
Road Safety Month is observed annually in the month of November.
“Although the number of lives lost in road accidents in high-income countries indicates a downward trend in recent decades, for most of the world’s population, the burden of road traffic injury in terms of societal and economic costs is rising significantly,” Dr. Norton noted.
According to him, Guyana’s road traffic deaths are at a rate of about 16 per 100,000. He informed that “pedestrians were the main road users affected with 60 such persons losing their lives at the end of December 2014.”
But in addition to this, there were 16 drivers, 26 motorcyclists, 20 pedal cyclists, 23 persons travelling in motor vehicles and one person being towed on a bicycle who also lost their lives in 2014.
The Minister has concluded that speeding continues to be the major contributory factor to fatal accidents, and was the case of 87 of the 135 fatal accidents recorded last year.
Even as he pointed out that “The way we travel is a major determinant of how healthy people are.” The Minister asserted that his Ministry is working towards helping to reverse the prevailing trend.
“The Ministry of Public Health in its efforts to curb this problem will be working closely with the Pan American Health Organisation (PAHO) and the National Road Safety Council to intensify its awareness activities.”
He went on to underscore that “road safety and the public health practitioner will work together to create a catalogue of ideas and concepts with the aim of highlighting good practice and providing guidance to road users.”
Recognising that the public health sector is an important partner in the prevention and control of road traffic accidents, Minister Norton also said that the role of medical professionals in advocacy for the prevention and control of road traffic is always underrated.
He nevertheless assured, “The health sector will continue to provide appropriate pre-hospital and hospital care and rehabilitation for victims, improve data collection, contribute to policies, develop prevention activities and conduct advocacy.”
But even as the Police Traffic Department continues to enforce laws and penalties for traffic offences, Minister Norton said that his Ministry has been simultaneously raising awareness. The intent, he noted, is to encourage all road users to exercise care and caution when using the road, that is, to avoid driving under the influence of alcohol, desist from using cell phones while driving and always ensure safety helmets are being worn when traversing the road on a motorcycle.
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